WASHINGTON (Mar. 3)
Some 2,000 young Jewish leaders from across the country rallied at Lafayette Park near the White House Sunday in an effort to help keep attention focussed on the plight of Soviet Jewry in the months ahead.
The demonstrators, who were here for the United Jewish Appeal Fifth National Young Leadership Conference, heard a string of speakers stress the need for continued pressure on Moscow in the wake of last month’s prisoner exchange that brought freedom for Soviet Jewish activist Anatoly Shcharansky, and with an eye to the still-unscheduled second summit meeting between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
“The window of opportunity is open not because of Soviet goodwill, but because of what the Soviets desire to achieve at the summit,” declared Morris Abram, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry.
Abram has stressed in the past that any U.S. effort to achieve an arms reduction agreement with the Soviet Union will inevitably be influenced by the extent to which Moscow abides by agreements already in force, specifically the Helsinki Accords of 1975, with their provisions on human rights.
PROPOSES NEW SYMBOLIC STRATEGY
Proposing a new symbolic strategy in the Soviet Jewry campaign, Rep. Jack Kemp (R. N.Y.), a likely contender for the Republican Presidential nomination, recalled Shcharansky’s account of how the Book of Psalms sustained his spirit during much of his time in prison.
“I would like to suggest that we flood the Soviet Union with the Book of Psalms,” Kemp announced to applause and cheers. “That was the book that kept Shcharansky and his hope alive and indeed gave him the love of freedom.”
Sunday’s speakers appeared to send a collective message to Moscow that the release of Shcharansky was not being viewed as significant when the Soviet authorities continue to harass and jail Hebrew teachers and other Jewish activists and prevent thousands of others from emigrating.
“We are overjoyed that Talya Shcharansky is a free man after too many years of suffering,” Rep. Tim Wirth (D. Colo.) quoted from a statement by refusenik Naum Meiman in response to Shcharansky’s release. “But his release is not a victory for us, because we are now further away from reaching the goal that Talya fought for when we struggled together.”
Meiman’s statement, Wirth said, “reminds us that nothing has changed,” he concluded. Meiman, whose daughter, Olga Plum, lives in Wirth’s Congressional District, has been seeking to obtain an exit visa for his wife to be treated for cancer in the West. Abram called the release of Shcharansky “the Soviet policy of release by eyedropping.”
“It is no solution; it is only a cover-up; it is only a deceit,” Abram maintained.
From Lafayette Park the demonstrators marched behind Kemp, Wirth, Abram and other speakers in a candlelight walk to the Washington Monument.